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Capitals finally earn road win with comeback victory over Panthers

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Southeast Division rivals Florida and Washington last played on Saturday, but Tuesday night marked the first time the teams competed with a newly raised banner inside the BB&T Center.

Last season, the Panthers snapped the Capitals' string of four consecutive division titles by reaching the postseason for the first time in a decade.

After routing Florida over the weekend, Washington erased a two-goal deficit in the third period and earned the 6-5 victory on right winger Troy Brouwer's goal 32 seconds into overtime in front of an announced crowd of 15,340. Brouwer scored a pair of goals in Washington's 5-0 win over Florida on Saturday at the Verizon Center.

"Every win's important, and to stick with it for 60 minutes is something we talk about all the time," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We saw it was going to be one of those nights where goals are going in and to just stay with the program and fight through the mistakes, and they did it."

A quarter of the way done with the strike-shortened season, Washington (4-8-1) is no longer the only NHL team without a road win. The Panthers (4-6-2), meanwhile, failed to make up ground three points behind Tampa in the division and a point away from the eighth playoff spot.

The Capitals began their comeback on right winger Eric Fehr's first of the season with 5:07 remaining in the game, set up by defenseman Mike Green. Left winger Alex Ovechkin, who has 54 points in 45 career games against the Panthers, evened it four seconds into a power play at 17:11.

In a tie game moments after Washington hit the crossbar, Florida took a 4-3 lead with 1:34 left in the second period on center Jonathan Huberdeau's fifth goal of the season. It came on a cross from the left side of the net by centers Peter Mueller and Drew Shore.

Shore added a goal -- the first of his NHL career -- on an assist from right winger Jack Skille 6:25 into the third period to hand the Panthers a two-point cushion.

"This season every point's important, and we let one slip away," Shore said. "I thought we were pretty upbeat even though it was 5-5, especially with the power play at the end of the game. We felt we had a chance to win it, but we definitely got away from our game there the last 10."

During one stretch of the second period that lasted just under five minutes, three shots found the back of the net. Both teams scored a pair of goals with a back-and-forth pace.

Defenseman Karl Alzner one-timed a shot from a face-off in Florida's zone to tie the score at 2 5:33 into the period. Fehr and right winger Joel Ward collected the assists on Alzner's first of the season.

Twice teammates redirected defenseman Erik Gudbranson's slap shot -- first Mueller changing the puck's course, then Huberdeau's stick catching a piece -- as it beat goaltender Braden Holtby three minutes later.

But center Matt Hendricks responded with his third goal on a pass by Ovechkin from behind the net to even it at 3. Center Mike Ribeiro created the opportunity.

Washington capitalized on a power play 4:26 into the first period on Ribeiro's fifth goal of the season on an assist from defenseman Tomas Kundratek.

Over the past six games, the Capitals are 7-for-14 with a man advantage, including goals in five in a row. They killed all five Florida power plays.

"It's something we've been working on all year," said Holtby, whose team improved to 10-5-1 in Florida over its past 16 contests. "Those guys take a lot of pride in PK, and it's good to see that it's coming round because these guys work extremely hard. That's what's going to be our backbone in the rest of the season."

When Washington failed to clear the puck in its own zone -- defenseman Filip Kuba blocked an attempt along the wall -- it bounced to former Capital and current Panther left winger Tomas Fleischmann to even the score with 9:42 remaining in the first period.

Fleischmann, who spent parts of six seasons with Washington, took a shot that deflected off an opponent's skate and into the net for his fourth goal of the year.

Less than three minutes later, the Panthers captured a 2-1 lead on center Shawn Matthias' one-timer from defenseman Marcel Goc. The Capitals couldn't clear as defenseman Dmitry Kulikov put his body in front of the puck. His pass to Matthias began a give-and-go to Goc behind the net before venturing to the middle of the zone.

"I think our composure is something we have to continue to work on when you're feeling the pressure," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's how you respond to it. We didn't respond too well. Obviously sometimes you survive those and tonight this is certainly a tough loss."

NOTES: Goaltender Scott Clemmensen got the start for the Florida Panthers. Last year, he was in net for both games Florida won against the Washington Capitals. ... Right winger Alex Kovalev returned after a two-game stint as a healthy scratch. As a result, right winger Jerred Smithson was scratched. ... Up next, the Capitals remain in Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday in the second of a three-game roadtrip. ... The Panthers continue their four-game homestand on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens.
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